Seren and the others could tell immediately that some reconciliation had happened between Oz and Corbin, although that didn’t keep the Charge Pilot from walking the younger man to the door for a few words.
“Backer Corbin,” he said firmly, but just loud enough for Corbin to be the only one to hear him.
Corbin met his gaze, but it was a timid look. “Yes, sir?”
“I do not want to see or hear you showing such disrespect again. Is that clear?”
Corbin’s head dropped ashamedly. “Yes, sir,” he whispered.
“Good.” He let his voice offer a note a friendship in it now. “Once we’re a bit more settled onto Neveah, I hope you will show your drawings to me, ok?”
That brought Corbin’s head up quickly, his surprise obvious. “You still want to see them?” he squeaked in amazement.
“I do,” Seren said sincerely. “Keep them available and once a camp is set up in a couple weeks, we’ll arrange a time and place.”
“Yes, sir!” the young man replied happily, and then left Seren’s quarters with pleasure instead of shame surrounding him.
Seren returned to his three guest Charges and did his best to turn things back to the reason for their presence.
“I apologize for the way this started. Charge Ozias, I hope you weren’t too offended by Backer Corbin’s impertinence.”
“No, Charge Seren. I think he and I have worked a few things out, at least for now.”
“Good, and as I told Cayson the last time he was here, please call me Seren in my quarters. I prefer it.”
“Thank you. I prefer Oz as well, and I know Amrynn prefers a sense of friendship over formality too,” Oz replied. Amrynn nodded her agreement and Seren smiled at all of them.
“I’m glad we’re on the same page. Please, have a seat and some nectar while I explain why I wanted to see you.”
The group sat and Seren placed four steaming mugs on the table before joining them. “I’m sure you’re all wondering why I requested your presence this morning. First, I’d like to thank you again for helping me last evening. I appreciate knowing that I have fellow Travelers who are so aware of the needs of those around them, including mine.”
He paused and Ozias and Cayson nodded in acceptance. “Thank you, Seren,” Cayson said sincerely. “We do feel that we all need to be looking out for one another, no matter our rank.”
“I agree,” Seren stated. “And that makes me think my choice is the right one. What I wanted to speak with you three about was your placement in the departure groups from the ship. As I said at the meeting, I’m having the crew leave the ship in groups of twenty and we’ll be traveling that way for the first seven to ten days that we are on Neveah. I and each of the men who went on the exploratory trip with me will head up a group. Right now I’m determining who to put in each group. I would like the three of you with me in group one. Cayson, your medical expertise is always a great thing to have. If you’re with me in group one, I think it will easier for you to be contacted by the other groups if necessary. I’d also like your help in placing the other medics throughout the groups.
“Oz, I’d like you in the lead with me because I know you’ll be quick to recognize safe and dangerous plants…at least so much as what is familiar to us. We can then pass the information back to the groups behind us so they’ll know what to avoid.
“And Amrynn, I’d greatly appreciate if you could monitor the purity levels around us as we travel. I know certain plant life or semi-enclosed places we’ll come across could pose a danger, and I think the sooner we know safe and unsafe locations, the better.”
Oz, Cay and Amrynn listened carefully, nodding on occasion as Seren spoke. When he finished his initial explanation, Cayson had a question.
“Seren, wherever you place us we will go,” he assured. “Is there something besides having us join you in group one that you wanted to discuss?”
“There is,” Seren acknowledged. “I’d like the help of all of you to determine the best positioning for the Travelers during this group trek and assignments for them. I’ve talked with the team members who went with me and have their input, and I also have some requests from Travelers about grouping or remaining with companions they’ve made since leaving Arlytia. I think if our people are pleased with their placement and work, the hike will go more smoothly. And I’m asking you because I trust your judgment; and between the four of us, I think we’ll have enough understanding of most of the crew to make wise determinations.”
“We’d be pleased to help,” Amrynn answered for all of them. “Have you started arranging groups already?”
“I have,” Seren confirmed. He retrieved several printouts from his PDU and placed them on the table. “This first one is a list of all the Travelers and their specialties,” he explained. “The other papers I have labeled from groups 1 through 6. Some I have assigned in groups already, but I still have to place about three fourths of the Travelers, and I’d like to have it done by this afternoon so I can send out a transmission to the ship.”
“Sounds doable,” Cayson said as Oz reached for the printout of all the Travelers. He looked it over a moment before sliding the paper over to Cay.
“I think it might be wise for you to start with this, Cay,” he said both to his husband and with a glance at Charge Seren. “You’d do well at dividing up the medical crew as Seren asked. Once they’re placed, maybe we could sort the Travelers who remain by their specialties and then spread them among the groups. That way all areas are covered.”
Seren nodded his agreement. “I was thinking along those lines as well. Once we have them grouped, then I can focus on individual assignments. I’ll be conversing with the team I took to Neveah on allocating tasks, but I’d like to know your recommendations as well, especially with those Travelers you know better than I do.”
That’s how the four spent the next several hours. There was a lot of thought and conversation on who would go where, discussion on a few Travelers who did not get on well, and deliberating on assignments and personal tasks. Food was delivered for mid-meal and they worked as they ate.
By mid-afternoon the project was finally completed to everyone’s satisfaction. They all knew that there were bound to be Travelers unhappy with their placement or assignment, but unless Seren believed it necessary, he planned to leave things as they now were.
“I thank you all for your help,” he said sincerely. “If I can do anything for you, you know all you have to do is ask.”
“You work every day for all of us, Charge Seren,” Amrynn said respectfully. “We’re glad to help you where we can. It’s a team effort…everyone lifting up the others as they can.”
It was a lovely way to put it, and Seren approved of the wording just as much as he approved of the way Oz slipped an arm discreetly around his wife’s waist, and Cayson nodded in smiling agreement. He thought not for the first time that this Trio was a great example of marriage to the other Travelers…even to him.
“Still,” he said with his unique mixture of a piercing gaze and warm voice. “Please come to me if I can do anything for you.
They agreed politely and then left with the excited talk of the official embarking to Neveah.
Seren’s communicator call to Pilot Sabik was answered almost immediately. Her “official” voice, as he termed it, greeted him respectfully.
“This is Sabik. How may I help you, Charge Seren?”
“Would I be pulling you away from anything important if I asked you to join me in my office and go over some things right now?”
“No, sir. I was just making a list of what to take when we disembark. I can be right over.”
“Thank you,” he offered briefly before ending the communication and returning his attention to the papers in front of him.
In less than ten minutes, Sabik was seated across from Seren and looking at him expectantly. He angled the papers he’d been studying to her and gave her a nod to look at them. “I’ve divvied up the disembarking groups and believe this will be the final arrangement, but I wanted you to look them over first and see if any potential problems stand out to you.”
“Of course, sir, but I trust you’ve made your determinations and assignments for good reasons and I doubt anything will need changed.”
“Thank you for your vote of confidence,” Seren said, knowing her words were sincere. “I’d still like your take on the groups, and I also want to make sure you’re comfortable with your assignment.”
Sabik’s mouth quirked at her superior’s comment. “This mission has never been about my personal comfort, Charge Seren. I’ll do my assignment, whatever it is, to the best of my ability. My individual preferences don’t need to play into this decision.”
Seren offered a small smile that hinted at both the professional relationship and the friendship they shared. “While I admire your attitude, Sabik, I don’t totally agree with you. I think it’s definitely a good thing for people to move outside their comfort zones to grow and learn, but I also know that when someone is working a job or within a place where they are confident in what they’re doing, then things tend to run smoother. Everyone is already going to be outside their familiar comforts just by entering into this new world and attending the initial trek. I’m hoping to limit the potential for problems or self-inflicted dangers and chaos by placing people in groups and assignments that will promote unity and safety.”
Sabik nodded. “Wise thinking, but what is your concern for my comfort?”
Seren shuffled through some of the papers and then slid one across the desk to her. “This is group assignment six, the last ones to be leaving the ship. At the moment I have you in that group for several reasons. One is because I’m leading out group one and won’t be around to monitor the ship and see to it that it is fully locked down and safety checked before it is completely evacuated. That is an assignment I was going to ask you to fulfill because I know I can trust you on it. Secondly, while traveling it has been acknowledged that you are second in command after me. We all know that will continue to be true until a time comes that our settlement is safely established and the people can then choose to vote on new leadership should they so desire.”
These facts were things Sabik was already away of, so she nodded at Seren in understanding and encouragement to keep talking.
“I want you and me to bookend to the groups of Travelers so they know there is leadership both in front and behind. But,” he continued, “I understand you may not be pleased to be among the last to experience Neveah, and you may be even less pleased with those in your group.”
Sabik frowned in confusion at him before taking the Group 6 paper and actively studying it. Her face relaxed after a moment as she understood Seren’s concerns.
“You are wondering if I’ll have a problem with having Backer Kemp in my group?” she guessed.
Seren nodded. “Yes, but not just him. Every Traveler who argued your orders while I was gone is in that group. I don’t foresee that they’ll make that same mistake again, but I could understand if there would be tension between you and them.”
Sabik nodded but put the paper aside and looked Seren in the eye. “I appreciate the concern, Seren, but don’t underestimate me or these men,” she advised. “These are all-around excellent individuals. I had a one-time issue with them, and while they initially argued with me, they did not continue to pursue it once they recognized that I was not giving in. They will follow authority as they’ve been trained to do, and I believe they have all learned their lessons. Each one delivered the apology to me that you told them to, and each one seemed honest and sincere. They recognized their mistake and accepted the consequences. I have no hard feelings towards those men and am more than willing to have them in my group.”
“Even Backer Kemp? How has his day of service been?”
“Frustrating for him,” Sabik said honestly, “but helpful to me. I know it’s been humbling for him, but I don’t think his issues are from not liking or respecting women, but simply that he doesn’t trust my gender.” She shrugged. “That’s just a guess. We haven’t spoken much today, but his presence has helped me get a lot more done than I expected. I plan to tell him that once his duty is fulfilled.”
Seren was pleased. He had a good right hand in Pilot Sabik, and she was a woman with integrity. He knew from the start that she wouldn’t belittle or take advantage of Kemp’s punishment, which was partly why he had decided on that course of action.
“I’m glad to hear the day has gone well overall,” Seren told her. “I’d appreciate it if you could write a brief report on the day for my files when you have a moment.”
“I will,” Sabik assured. “Now let me look over the rest of those papers so we can stop this nonsense about my comfort.”
Seren laughed and nodded approvingly. “Yes, ma’am,” he teased, and slid the papers over to her.The rest of their meeting was brief, with only one change being made before they said good night.